Friday Five: Music From the Once Festival, Evan W, We're Twins compilation, Sultana, Ownee
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features experimental music from Ann Arbor's Once Festival (1961-1966), synth works by Evan W, noisy hijinks from the latest compilation excavated from the We're Twins label, and dance mixes by Sultana and Ownee.
Various artists, Music From the Once Festival 1961-1966
ONCE was a collective of composers and artists who helped make 1960s Ann Arbor one of the most important places for avant-garde works in the Midwest. Founded in the late 1950s by Robert Ashley, ONCE evolved to include composers Gordon Mumma, George Cacioppo, Roger Reynolds, and Donald Scavarda, and together they started producing a festival that welcomed experimental artists, from classical and jazz to new music and electronic as well as dance, film, and multimedia creators. The ONCE group continued through 1969 when Ashley left Ann Arbor for California, but the collective was at its height between 1961 and 1966 when it held this annual fest.
While some music from the ONCE Festivals has been released, a new box set compiled by New World Records provides the most expansive look at its legacy. Music From the Once Festival 1961-1966 consists of 35 works that add up to more than six hours of music, the majority of which has never been released before. The majority of the works are by ONCE's founders, but there's also music by Pauline Oliveros, Bruce Wise, Robert Sheff, Philip Krumm, and David Behrman.
Add in the 140-page booklet with a long essay by musicologist Leta Miller and rare photos of the performers and performances, and this set is an excellent slice of Ann Arbor cultural history.
Evan W, Separation of Concern
Ann Arbor's Evan W makes synth music that floats between ambient and industrial, retrowave and experimental modular. Separation of Concern is his second album, and it matches his 2022 debut, The Future, Is Now, for unpindownable genre-hopping.
Various artists, MC Trashpedal - I'm On This Album Too
This compilation is another excavated release from the early-to-mid-2000s CD-R and tape label We're Twins, which documented the Ann Arbor and Ypsi experimental and DIY scenes. Label mainstays Jason Voss, Patrick Elkis, and Jib Kidder all make appearances here alongside 10 other groups I've never heard of save for Drafted by Minotaurs, a post-rock ambient-guitar project whose Aversion Therapy album is stashed away somewhere in my home. I had completely forgotten about this band and had no idea the musicians were from this area—I wasn't living in Michigan at the time—and was happy to be reintroduced to their bliss-inducing sound.
Sultana, Exposure Mix 055
It's been three months since the last MEMCO mix, but Sultana's has arrived just in time for the summer heat. The Ann Arbor DJ's mix is high-energy, a bit chaotic, and the perfect soundtrack for your next beach-party throwdown.
Ownee, Fruits of Our Labor, Mix 003
While MEMCO had been unusually silent with its mixes the past few months, its associates in the Immaculate Collective have been pumping out the jams. Ownee's entry into the series gets moody and spooky, and while it would work just fine on the dancefloor, I can also picture listening this on the way home from—or on the way to—the club.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.